Ratepayers will fund a full-time executive assistant for newly-elected Augusta-Margaret River Shire president Julia Meldrum in the wake of reforms to the local government sector. A recruitment drive saw the advertised position offering a salary of up to about $80,000. Chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said the Shire had created the new role through a change in allocations rather than adding to its staffing budget. “This role was created specifically to support the new full-time office of the Shire president which came about as a result of the recent local government reforms introduced by the State Government, and it is funded through staffing allocations provided for executive and Shire president administrative support,” Ms Addison-Brown said. “The current allocation for admin support for the Shire president has been increased utilising FTE (full-time equivalents) currently allocated to support the executive team, and given the Shire president, chief executive and directors work closely together, the advertised position will work hand in hand with the existing executive assistants. “Should any additional admin positions be required at a later date, these can be considered in future budgets.” Local Government Minister David Michael and his predecessors ushered through significant changes affecting this year’s council election, which included the first-time direct election of the Shire president which added another seat to the previously seven-member Shire council. A spokesperson for Mr Michael said staff support for newly-elected local government leaders was the decision of local governments regardless of the changes to mandate the popular election of all shire president and mayors. “Resources and support for the mayor/president is a matter for individual councils, not for the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and is purely an administrative decision by the chief executive,” they said. “The resourcing and support for the mayor/president should not change nor is it contingent on whether they are elected by electors or by council members.” City of Busselton chief executive Tony Nottle said no extra positions would be created to support new Mayor Phil Cronin and the State Government had not required it. “The City has a current part-time executive assistant to council position and at this stage we have not sought to add additional resourcing,” Mr Nottle said. Applications for the new position closed on Wednesday, November 8. “The Shire is seeking a dynamic and professional executive assistant to provide a high level of support to the Shire president and co-ordinate all the activities relating to her office,” the advertisement said. “You will understand protocols relating to political and government stakeholders and offices, be competent with undertaking research, be able to prepare speech notes, statements and correspondence, as well as providing a high level of general administrative support in a local government working environment.” Other local government reforms included the gradual roll-out of the livestreaming of council meetings.